Almost two years have passed since our Mexico trip in January 2022. Still, I felt somewhat relieved when I was writing this blog post. Yes, it took a long time to get done with it, but it was definitely worth it, as I wanted to share the places we visited and experiences we made on our trip to Mexico. Besides, I relived some of the awesome moments while processing the photos and editing the text.
Here is a quick snapshot of our trip: we were traveling with friends, four adults in total, with a kid (almost two years old) with a car. The regions we visited were Yukatan and Quintana Roo. Our trip lasted three weeks, we started and ended our trip in Cancun. The itinerary looked like this:
Cancun – Playa del Carmen – Akumal – Tulum – Pisté (Chichén Itzá) – Merida – Progreso – Valladolid – Holbox – Puerto Morelos.
For the reference: the mexican peso to euro rate was 25 to 1 in January 2022.
Cancun was our (spontaneous) place to stay in the first two nights after we arrived in Mexico (and the New Year’s Eve celebration, which we actually completely missed due to the jetlag). Two days before our trip, our first airbnb on the beach at Puerto Morelos has cancelled because of some kind of incident in the appartment. Thus, we were forced to spend two first nights in Cancun as there were not many available for prompt booking apartments around the New Year’s Eve.
In Cancun, we had a beach day in Zona Hoteliera, which has access to two coasts. Both beaches had strong waves that day, so we couldn’t swim much, but it had the most amazing intense turquoise color of water, so we took many photos.
The entrance to the beaches in Mexico is normally free of charge, at least to the narrow area directly at the water, that’s why you should consider coming early to the beach to get the shadow place or a sunbed in a beach club restaurant.
Playa del Carmen
Playa del Carmen or just “Playa” was very touristy, loud, full of people, and party. I haven’t seen so many people, well, since the pandemic started. (Reminder: we visited Mexico in January 2022, when corona was still a thing in Germany). If I could decide otherwise, I’d rather book those four nights that we spent at the Playa somewhere else. Actually, at night we could even hear loud party music from our hotel room and in the evening outside in a corner drugs were dealt. It was disturbing, to say the least. Resume – if you are traveling with children, you could easily skip Playa with no regrets.
Though, the city is perfect for going out, eating out, drinks, and party. If you are a young couple or a group of friends, you’ll probably enjoy Playa. There are numerous cafes, bars, and restaurants at the beach, where you can savor your smoothie or a cocktail with an ocean view.
In the city the food offer is vast. To make a choice is rather a problem here. I can recommend “Los Aguachiles” for atun maravilloso – “marvelous tuna” (Calle 34 Nte Centro, Gonzalo Guerrero, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexiko, http://www.losaguachiles.mx/) and “Ricos Tacos y Tortas” for tacos (Bus Stop, Calle 2 Nte, Centro, 77710 Playa del Carmen, Q.R., Mexiko).
Akumal is claimed to be The Place to snorkel with the turtles. And we have seen some, as well as stingrays and hungry pelicans waiting at the shore for the fishers to throw some fish at them. The entrance to the beach costs about 6 US Dollar.
To be able to snorkel with the turtles outside the marked narrow area close to the beach, you need to pay extra to book a tour. Just joining the group in the life jackets could be suboptimal. At some point, I was given a notice that I’m not allowed to swim beyond the “fence” by a sea ranger. Here is the tip for a free snorkeling: go towards the end of the beach where there is no “fence” anymore and snorkel into the sea. You’ll be rewarded with clearer water, more colorful fish, and some turtles without crowds of people in life jackets following them with a selfie stick.
Cenotes are something you cannot miss in Mexico. They are big holes in the ground filled with water. Some of them are underground.
We book a tour from Playa del Carmen with Easytours for 800 pesos pp. The entrance fee costs already 650 pesos, so that was a fair price which included transportation. You will get a short guided tour through four cenotes, two open and two closed. The closed ones can be visited only wearing a life jacket during the tour. In the open cenotes you can float as much as you want, though the water was quite chilly. The park was very touristy, with some restaurants (mediocre food) and food stalls. Prices were rather high.
I would definitely recommend visiting this beautiful tranquil cenote in the forest. The entrance fee was 200 pp. This cenote is not as famous as others, that’s why it was not overcrowded and we felt easy-going and relaxed during the visit. Toilets, showers (mind wearing no sun protection), a jumping platform, a little snack, and souvenirs shop were the only facilities there. The water in the cenote was very clear, and we could explore some little underwater caves and follow the fish, which swam there in abundance. In the evening, when all visitors got out of the water, the turtles were coming out to float.
Tsukan Santuario de vida
If you want to float in a 64 m deep cenote in a grotto with light falling from the openings in the ceiling, the cenote in the Tsukan Santuario de vida is the one you must visit. The entrance fee is 230 pesos pp, and the area looked very new, and it was not as crowded as other more famous cenotes.
Probably, anyone heading to Yukatan has seen this iconic picture of a limestone castle standing at the shore.
The Castle in Tulum is the biggest and one of the oldest buildings in this Mayan Archeological Site. Some remains date back to the 6th century, when it served as a beacon or light house only for friendly ships: Tulum’s coast is protected by a very long coral reef that was an obstacle for sailors that didn’t know Tulum’s secret passage. (Source: https://mayanpeninsula.com/en/castle-tulum/).
One of the newest seven world wonders is open to the visitors from 8 am to 5 pm. The entrance fee is 538 pesos pp. Additionally, we took a guide (1000 pesos extra), and that was an important investment in our visit experience. By the way, if you pay with a card, a commission is rather high, so take enough cash with you.
Maya civilization existed from the middle of the 3rd till the end of the 17th century. Maya were a peaceful folk, extremely good at math and astronomy. On of the biggest mysteries of the world is Maya’s disappearance: our guide told us a story that at some point, the Mayan elite was simply gone, leaving their peasants behind without knowledge and technology and giving birth to a non-solved mystery.
The design of the main pyramid was perfectly calculated, showing a snake with feathers coming down at 4 pm by the light-shadows play. When standing at a specific point, clapping the hands provoked the sound effects of a quetzal, a bird screaming. Maya used the drums to create this effect.
Interestingly, under the pyramid, another pyramid was hidden, as Maya believed in a new beginning every 52 years.
In the times of Maya, a religious ball game was popular, where the captain of the winner team was decapitated (what was considered a great honor).
We learnt that sacrifices of Maya were usually non-human, only in extreme conditions (draught, or too much rain), human sacrifice was offered to the gods of wind and rain. Sacrificing your life to the gods was a huge privilege. Maya’s way of thinking was this way different than ours.
In 2012, Mexico experienced enormous amount of tourists. Guess why? Many people gathered in Chichen Itza to witness the end of the world or aliens arrival (as predicted in 2012). Well, luckily, nothing spectacular happened.
This little city is the perfect starting point to visit Chichen Itza. Along the main street, you will see many souvenir shops with reasonable prices (I’d recommend to buying souvenirs there) and restaurants serving Mexican and yukatanese food.
The specialty is the chicken roasted literally in front of your eyes. You can order a whole, a half-portion (“orden”) with rice (arroz) and vegetables on the side. Delicious! Option “to go” – “para llevar” is also available.
We would recommend going to the “Polleria los pájaros” for a meal or “El pollo mexicano” for para llevar. For dinner you can visit “Los Arcos” (or any of the neighbour restaurants). They serve a rather big variety of local food for very moderate price.